Dallas Keuchel is not performing like the 2015 Cy Young DK or even the 2017 DK, where he was brilliant when healthy. After a particularly bumpy three starts in a row where his ERA has ballooned from a very good 3.39 to a below average 4.45, folks are wanting something done, but are unsure what it is they want done.
If he is hurt again, then a DL stint makes sense, but there has been no indication that the problems he is having are health-related. If he has changed from a control pitcher with a 91 mph fastball, who has turned into a control pitcher with an 89 mph fastball, there’s not much that can be done. If he is just a bit unlucky as a lot of the hits against him appear to be hard to semi-hard ground balls finding the right hole in the defense, it is possible that this will improve as a statistical swing back to the mean.
A DL stint could be the answer, but there is no way they would get away with putting the outspoken Keuchel on the DL, if he is not hurt. He would be out there pointing out the truth in a hurry and that could be quite embarrassing and would gain the attention of the league office. They could send him to the bullpen and bring one of his buddies, Collin McHugh or Brad Peacock into the rotation. But that could adversely affect the bullpen, which has been a bit iffy and overworked lately. And it would be putting someone in the pen who would not likely be as gracious as McHugh about the assignment. They could put together a trade for Keuchel, but they would be trading him at the lower end of his worth and they would be assuming that they would not need his arm to get through the rest of the season, which would be a stretch based on seeing Charlie Morton, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers on the injury list last season.
So, let’s say for argument’s sake that the 4.45 ERA/1.318 WHIP is the new norm for DK. Can the fans accept that as what they would get out of the last slot in the rotation?
Let’s look at what the bottom end of the rotation of the Astros’ main AL competitors looks like.
- Seattle. The M’s #4 and #5 starters are Mike Leake (4.46 ERA) and Felix Hernandez (5.70 ERA). So, the M’s would love to have DK as their 5th starter and he has been as good as their #4 starter.
- Yanks. With Jordan Montgomery out for the season, the #3, 4 and 5 starters are Masahiro Tanaka (4.58 ERA and on the DL), Sonny Gray (4.81 ERA and thankfully not an Astro) and Domingo German (5.32 ERA). So DK would get snapped up by the Yanks in a quick minute.
- Angels. The Halos #5 starter has been former Astro Nick Tropeano (4.83 ERA). Again, Keuchel would be an improvement.
- Red Sox. The Sox #5 starter has been Drew Pomeranz (6.81 ERA and on the DL)
- Indians. The Tribes #5 starter who has lost his spot was Josh Tomlin (7.23 ERA).
What the numbers show us is that Keuchel would be an acceptable #5 for all of the top teams in the AL and even higher on the Yanks. He has put up solid numbers – numbers that could have easily resulted in a win in 8 of his 14 starts and numbers that kept the team in the game in 3 of the other 6.
Now, if he spirals out of control towards a 5.00 ERA then it will be time for action. But for the time being, unless there is a hidden injury occurring, the Astros will continue to roll DK out in that spot in the rotation and hope that he finds a little of his magic from just last season.